A Black Memphis police officer is accusing a restaurant of racial profiling after he and his family were asked to leave the eatery because they smelled like marijuana. According to FOX13, the incident happened Saturday at Houston’s Restaurant.
Marcus Mosby, who is a local police officer, and his wife told the news outlet that a manager of the restaurant asked them to leave the eatery because their group smelled like marijuana. But multiple employees later determined the family did not smell like marijuana.
Mosby said he believes the manager racially profiled him and his family.
“She said, ‘There’s a strong odor of marijuana coming from your party in this area.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, we don’t smoke marijuana. You’re mistaken.’ She said, ‘I’ve gotten complaints. People have called and said they smell.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, no one has walked past us but you,’” he recalled.
Mosby’s wife is a high school principal. The couple said the incident left them feeling embarrassed.
“You would think when I advised her of my occupation, my wife’s occupation, you would think she would reassess what she thought. She didn’t want to hear it. She said, ‘You still have to leave,’” Mosby said.
The Black law enforcement officer said they declined to leave the restaurant and got another opinion on the claim, FOX13 reported. And though they were ultimately allowed to seat, Mosby said continued questioning the manager who asked them to leave.
“I said, ‘Why did you just racially profile us?’ She said, ‘I’m sorry. That was just a bad mistake.’ I said, ‘How did you smell something no one else smelled?’ She just kept apologizing,” Mosby recalled.
Mosby later took to Facebook to share their experience. And he got to know they weren’t the only Black family that was asked to leave the eatery because they allegedly smelled like marijuana.
“She singled us out. I feel like we were racially profiled,” Mosby said.
“When patronizing a business, that business owner has a lot of leeway on who he or she wants in their business,” Van Turner, who is an attorney, told FOX13.
The news outlet became aware other businesses around the restaurant’s location have displayed signs saying customers who smell like marijuana will be refused service.
“Say they say they’re kicking you out (of) the restaurant because you smell like marijuana, but it’s really because of your race or your gender or your sexual preference, or your religion. Then yes, that is very much a violation of the law,” Turner said.
He, however, added that businesses need to be certain before making such allegations as incorrect claims can attract lawsuits. “To make that sort of accusation is very harmful. And I’ve heard of other issues in the past with Houston’s and other restaurants in the past,” Turner said.
Responding to the incident in a statement, Houston’s General Manager, wrote: “Mr. Mosby dined with us Saturday with his family. When we detect the strong presence of marijuana with arriving guests, we do refuse service as the odor can affect others’ dining. We made a mistake in attributing the odor to Mr. Mosby’s party and apologized. We were happy to welcome him in and take care of his experience on us on Saturday.”
But Mosby said he doesn’t “plan on patronizing this establishment anymore.”